March 4, 2014, 11:36 a.m.
Germany: The Federal Constitutional Court has declared unconstitutional the current 3 percent threshold for representation in the European Parliament (EP). Germany is currently one of 8 countries in the European Union that maintains an electoral threshold for its elections to the EP, though it recently reduced this threshold from 5 percent to 3 percent in 2011. The judges ruled 5 to 3 that the threshold is no longer needed to preserve the EP’s ability to function and that it unfairly excludes small parties from participation in EU governance. Critics worry that the change will allow more extreme groups, such as the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD), to gain representation in the EP during the elections this May. Had the threshold not existed during the last EP elections, the NPD would have gained a seat.
Macedonia: Early parliamentary elections will be held on April 27, after a small partner in the ruling coalition refused to support the coalition’s candidate in the upcoming presidential election. The Democratic Union for Integration, a minor ethnic Albanian party in the ruling coalition, split with the Prime Minister’s VMRO-DPMNE party over the latter’s decision to back the re-election of President Gjorge IVANOV. Relations between Macedonians and Albanians remain strained since an ethnic Albanian insurgency was quelled with force by the Macedonian military in 2001. The presidential election will be held on April 13, but the potential second round would be held on April 27 alongside the parliamentary elections. Local media reports that the current government will likely be dissolved on March 5 in preparation for the elections.
Ukraine: A referendum on the status of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea will be held on March 30. The Crimean Parliament originally scheduled the referendum to be held on May 25 alongside the nationwide presidential election, but Crimea’s new Prime Minister Sergey AKSYONOV moved the date to be held sooner in order to put an end to the worsening crisis in the region. AKSYONOV, a member of the small pro-Russia “Russian Unity” party, was appointed by the Supreme Council of Crimea while the building was under siege by pro-Russian militias, and his appointment has been denounced by the new Ukrainian government as unconstitutional. The upcoming referendum may include a provision for complete sovereignty, which would also be in violation of the Ukrainian constitution. Meanwhile, the situation in Crimea continues to deteriorate as Ukrainian Tatars clash with pro-Russian demonstrators in the streets and pledge to boycott the referendum, pro-Russian forces continue to control government buildings and major airports around Simferopol, and Prime Minister AKSYONOV consolidates power over the police and military in the region and requests the presence of Russian troops.
(Image Credit: world.time.com)